December 05, 2010

Wikileaks Commotion: Does It Have Legs?

It is no exaggeration to say that the world media is abuzz about Wkileaks, the not-for-profit international organization that has been making public leaked information regarding a gamut of subjects from a list of censored films by Lebanon, to files about the Afghan war, the Iraqi war and now 250,000 US diplomatic cables involving 270 embassies.

Many remember the Pentagon papers that revealed clearly that the “Administration had systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress, about a subject of transcendent national interest and significance". Many more remember with sadness the tendency of the Ford Pinto to explode essentially because the management had deliberately undertaken a cost-benefit analysis that showed that the corporation would be better served by not upgrading a dangerous fuel system that has the tendency to explode. There are many such examples, real and imagined where documents hidden from the public were meant to mislead and or cover up negligence and even criminal activities.

The documents released by Wiki leaks in connection to the conduct/misconduct of war in Afghanistan and Iraq meet the above aim that public disclosure will shine a bright light on events and developments that were meant to deceive and even deny justice. But is this the case in the sensational revelations that have caused so much coverage, the world over, when Wiki leaks made public the contents of 250,000 US diplomatic cables from all over the world? Of course not.

These cables are in essence the private analysis of employees that were required to provide their employer in confidence their non public evaluation of events and political leaders. The other highly sensational and even inflammatory issue in these cables was the public disclosure of the private opinions of various government officials all over the world who met with and were urged to discuss in strict confidence their views regarding a large variety of matters that range from the Iranian nuclear standoff to the UK military performance in Afghanistan.

Many countries and possibly most have adopted the legal principle of privileged communications that prevents certain parties, say physicians, from testifying against their patients by making their privileged information public. Courts will not admit into evidence such information on the grounds that the patient/client is protected from having the doctor, the priest, her lawyer or her suppose use her words against her under any set of circumstances. Don’t you think that a politician should have just as much right to keep his views private if he chooses? We do have a very wide understanding when practically every single one of us either seeks advice in confidence or offers it with the expectation that the ideas will not be plastered across the internet screens all over the globe.

Nothing more than embarrassment of some will result from these leaks. No higher purpose will be served and no one’s welfare will be protected by their release. Their effects will be momentary at best, until the novelty and shock value of such revelations die out. What did anyone gain from the knowledge that the King of Bahrain spoke freely about his fears from a nuclear Iran or from the fact that some US analysts suspect that the Russian mafia might have infiltrated the highest level of the Russian government. Was it really unexpected to hear Elias Murr, the Lebanese Minister of Defense telling the US ambassador that the Lebanese army will not engage the Israelis if and when a war between them and Hezbollah is waged? Yes it is highly embarrassing for a defense minister to speak so openly about the impotency of his armed forces but should that be a surprise when the Lebanese army is underequipped, undertrained. It’s an army without ammunitions.

I am not suggesting that the media organizations should not have covered the leaks. It’s a news story and that is the sole rationale for their existence. Even Wiki leaks itself had to distribute the information once that information was given to it. All calls by some to prosecute and even assassinate Mr. Assange the Wiki leaks human face are deplorable but those that delivered the information to Wiki leaks should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law in this case. It is immensely important not to confuse the forest for the trees; private opinions given in confidence are not the same thing as conspiracies to defraud and cover-up illegal and criminal activities. And this too shall pass without any major repercussions. The leaks in question have been highly titillating and will cause lots of discomforts to the principals but no higher purpose will be served as a result of these essentially stolen private remarks opinions that were not meant for public consumption.

November 03, 2010

Civil Rights of Non Moslems In The Arab World

Logical internal consistency is a fundamental characteristic of a model that has withstood the rigours of investigation both empirical and otherwise. The advocates of an internally inconsistent model, especially one that suffers of an apparent logical fallacy are often chided for their position and for their inability to promote rational thinking. Such is the case when those that make a habit of disregarding say the rights of nature; make an issue of the failure of their neighbours to act in an environmentally friendly manner. Of course the corporation that seeks governmental relief is not in a position to be taken seriously when it opposes the extension of such a program to cover its competitors.

The above fatal fallacy could easily be avoided through the incorporation of the ideas embodied in the principle of the Golden Rule. This simple but profound idea has been traced to practically all cultures all over the world, although one of its most popular and common manifestations are encompassed in the saying: Do unto others what you would like others to do unto you. As it is obvious it would not be difficult to suggest that this ethics of reciprocity is the foundation upon which human rights and fair treatments are based.

What often goes unnoticed, in the Arab world, is that this simple but yet elegant idea about justice and equality has been traced as far as the middle kingdom of Egypt, 19th century BC, as well as the Code of Hammurabi not to mention the Torah and Confucius. Furthermore it is also important to note that The Parliament of World Religion during its centenary held in 1993 adopted the idea of reciprocity found in the Golden Rule as the common belief in all religions. This document of Global Ethics declared to the world:

We are interdependent….We take individual responsibility for all we do. All our decisions, actions, and failures to act have consequences.

We must treat others as we wish others to treat us. We make a commitment to respect life and dignity, individuality and diversity, so that every person is treated humanely, without exception. We must have patience and acceptance….

We consider humankind a family…We commit ourselves to a culture of non-violence, respect, justice, and peace. We shall not oppress, injure, torture, or kill other human beings, forsaking violence as a means of settling differences.

We in the Arab world seem to have conveniently decided not to adopt and apply the above principle despite the admonition by the prophet Mohammad, PBUH, that such a principle of respect and reciprocity to others is essential as can be seen clearly in more than one Hadith:

“None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” An Nawawi

"No man is a true believer unless he desires for his brother that, what he desires for himself." Forty Hadith

“Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you”. Muhammad, The Farewell Sermon on Mount Arafat in Mecca.

“Woe to those . . . who, when they have to receive by measure from men, exact full measure, but when they have to give by measure or weight to men, give less than due”
—Qur’an (Surah 83, "The Unjust,"

The principle of justice and reciprocity is as seminal to Islam as it is to other cultures and we choose to neglect it at our peril. This is not the place to describe in full details the practices in separate countries against non Moslems.But it should be clear that when we close our eyes on discriminatory practices by our neighbours and friends then amounts to an acquiescence in these wrongful and hurtful practices.

The Arab world has paid dearly for the inequities that its non Moslem population is subjected to. Why is it not evident that the time of the dhimmis is gone forever and that if we consider ourselves to be part of this global community then no one has the right to deny any other person the right to self expression and the freedom of thought and religious belief. Why can we not see that when we discriminate against others then we automatically give up our right to complain when others discriminate against our fellow co religionists? Saudi Arabia could not possibly object to a rule preventing school girls from wearing a moslem headdress when a non Moslem is not allowed to practice her religion openly in the kingdom. Egypt was not in a position to complain against the Swiss rule that regulates the size and location of minarets when even minor repairs to churches in Egypt require almost presidential approval. The Arab league could not join in the important dialogue about the advisability of building a Mosque close to ground zero in Manhattan when many Arab countries have strict prohibitions against the construction of Churches and other non Moslem houses of worship.

Yes this is a different world than it was 1500 years ago in many respects but the principles of justice and universal humanity and equality are still the same. Many of the Arab governments that claim that they are only doing the work of Allah and that of his Prophet, PBUH, would do well to review the treaty of Medina which L Ali Khan argues could serve as the basis of treating minorities justly and offering them equal rights under Islam. And most importantly we cannot disapprove of the acts of others when we sanction these same acts either in our countries or we are silent when these same human rights violations are committed by our neighbourly countries. There ought to be no prejudice or partiality in civil rights.

September 16, 2010

What Is Educational and Why Ideas Can't be Immune to Evaluation

"Respect my views," I often hear people saying. By now my reaction is, why ?

Let's not confuse the right of everyone to believe and say anything they want. It's called free expression. But, as much as people need rights, ideas don't. I don't think I have to respect any idea without examining it--including applying critical thinking. Of course, this makes people uncomfortable having to discuss something that they haven't really thought about or something that is part of their identity.

Yet, by discussion, inquiry, rational thinking, and the ability to revise, we can learn.

It's upsetting to hear that the superstitious, the invalid, and the fictitious are promoted by so many Americans nowadays. I have no patience for willful ignorance and for the peddlers of it.

August 26, 2010

Religious Freedom vs. Religious Phobia

Utopias are perfect societal structures that are goals to be attained. They are dreams that will never be fulfilled whether they are based on Plato’s Republic or Thomas Mores’ ideal economy. These are dreams that provide us with targets to aim for but that we will not attain. If a utopia is to be achieved then that would be the end of history, a stage of perfect homogeneity and no conflict.

No world society is at that stage, although some have argued that certain states are closer to the end of history than others. Democracy , when seen in the above light, is such a conception that is to be approached asymptotically and so obviously never reached. That is true of all societies and all states including the experiment that we know as the United States. We all know of many severe challenges that the US system is constantly struggling with such as the relatively major income inequality, the presidential electoral system, the role of money in all elections and the corporate influence in shaping the legislative process. It is clear that given such challenges the resulting democracy is nowhere close to perfect but yet it can be argued that in many areas such as the principles of separation of church and government in addition to the tremendous seriousness given to the issue that is commonly known as “ first freedom” make it very difficult , even impossible, to violate the principle of freedom of religion as spelled out in the first amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. “

A democratic system might not be perfectly equitable or perfectly just but it cannot afford to violate personal freedom of expression and religion. There ought to be no room whatsoever in the public square for religious affairs since these are best viewed as issues of personal faith. I have every reason to believe that the United States looks upon this issue with the utmost seriousness it deserves and will not knowingly violate any persons’ right to worship whoever she wants anyway she desires provided that such an exercise does not impinge on any other persons rights.

The controversy regarding the issue of the construction of a mosque close to ground zero in New York City must be seen within the above parameters. Ideally this means that any individual or group of people should have the right to practice their faith anywhere they want as long as that does not impinge on the rights of others. No one in Manhattan has said that the group of Moslems does not have the right to worship or to build a mosque; the only objections raised are based on the appropriateness of the location. The Mayor of the city, Mr. Bloomberg, has given his unqualified support for the construction of the Islamic center where it is proposed since it meets all the zoning requirements and I believe that the center would be built where proposed.

If for any reason the planned Islamic center is relocated then that unlikely event would be a reflection of Islam phobia and not a violation of the seminal constitutional principle embodied by the first amendment. Fellow Muslims will still be free to pray and build their houses of worship but not in that particular location which will be a tragedy but not a constitutional catastrophe.

If it ever comes to that , which I doubt that it will, then the most obvious question that should be raised by Arabs and Moslems alike is Why did so many of the well educated and enlightened United States citizens develop an Islam phobia but not a Buddhist phobia or a Hindu phobia? Is there something that we can do as a community to allay these fears, as unreasonable as they might seem? Could it be that when so many terror attacks were carried in the name of Islam that not enough was done to denounce these attacks? Could it be that the small groups of fundamentalists have been allowed to hijack Islam without any major rebuttals from the mainstream Islamic power structure? But above all are there many Arab countries that can truly object to religious discrimination by pointing out to religious freedoms in their countries?

The controversy in lower Manhattan does not rise to the level of being a violation of the first amendment. The Islamic center should be built as proposed but if for one reason or another a zoning justification is found to move it to a different location then Islam phobia would be the reason.

If that is to transpire then it would be the duty of every US citizen to analyze in a detached manner the unfairness and the injustice of such a selective judgment. May this controversy also lead to serious soul searching in the Arab countries also? We need to recognize that when we place severe restrictions on the religious practice of non Moslems in our countries and when we prohibit the building of non Islamic houses of worship or place restrictions on the use of religious symbols then we would have abandoned the right to criticize others when their acts infringe on the rights of our fellow religionists. In a perfect world there should be no restrictions on anyone to believe or not believe but in an imperfect world we need to find out the reason for popular phobias.

August 24, 2010

Water Insecurity In MENA

“Water water everywhere ,Nor a drop to drink” from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner is an adequate description to the water insecurity that is threatening the world as a whole but that is a practical certainty for the countries of the Middle East and North Africa. It is true that many an Arab country is blessed with an excess of Black Gold but the serious scarcity of fresh water availability could make Blue Gold much more important in determining the future of these lands.

Fresh water scarcity is a global problem but in some regions it is much more severe than others. The Middle East and North Africa are classified by the United Nations as the ones with the most water insecurity in the world. Although 75 % of the surface of the planet is water only 2.5% of that is fresh water and ¾ of that is not available since it is frozen icebergs. What is left is less than 1 % of the volume of water and even that 1% is not totally available since some of it is hard to get to and others are just soil dampness. What is important is to note that the amount of fresh water availability is fixed but it is, like most other resources, not evenly distributed. Many regions in the world have access to over 12000 cubic meters per capita per year while others have only a few hundred. Actually, the United Nations considers countries with 500 cubic meters of water per capita per year to be suffering of absolute water insecurity.

Unfortunately, many Arab states are already there, such as Kuwait, UAE, Qatar and Gaza. Furthermore it is estimated that the first world capital to run out of water will be Sana’a by 2020. Water availability is so scarce in MENA that the FAO projects that by 2025 17 Arab states will have to be classified under “scarce water supplies”. In order to put this in perspective the average water availability/consumption the typical Arab will be just 700 cubic meters per year when the global average is ten times as high in availability and 3-4 times in consumption. The situation for the most essential resource for life is so critical in MENA that less than 0.5% of the renewable water resources are in this region of the world. The stability of the water resources is even more acute if one is to remember that 75% of the water in this region originates from outside its political boundaries.

Given the expected increase in population in the region in addition to climate change and its attendant increased demand for water for irrigation the availability of water will be halved by 2050 which will imply severe water insecurity for the whole region. Whether these expected shortages translate into political instability and water wars is a potential outcome that needs to be taken seriously. That is at least one reason that calls for a major highly coordinated effort by all the countries to invest heavily in water infrastructure including modern irrigation techniques.

Lebanon is in a slightly better position than the average Arab country but definitely not in an enviable position of any water excesses. The best that can be said about the Lebanese situation is that it is less severe than Jordan, and the GCC to name a few. Estimates of water availability in Lebanon are rough and they vary between a conservative estimate of 2200 million cubic meters per year and almost 4000 million cubic meters of fresh water per year. As it is clear even the upper estimate provides each of the 4.5 million Lebanese only about 900 cubic meters per year. Lebanon is expected to be consuming just about 3000 million cubic meters of water by 2015. As the above figure makes it clear that would then imply that Lebanon needs huge investments in the next few years in order to gather a lot of this water that is wasted every year by flowing into the sea.
More than half of the water usage in Lebanon is needed for irrigation while about 30% goes for domestic uses. The remainder is used by industry.

The warning by Minister Gibran Basil about the impending water crisis in Lebanon must be taken very seriously. Arguably the crisis has already begun and is visible from the constant failure of the water authorities to deliver adequate amounts of water to its clients. One reason is the antiquated infrastructure and another is the lack of awareness to conserve this most precious of resources. Lebanon cannot afford not to construct a series of dams and to build a modern facility to supply Beirut, where half of the Lebanese reside, with the estimated 250 million cubic meters of water that it needs while it is currently getting less than half of that amount. It is also hoped that the impending water shortages will impel the Lebanese government to adopt a meaningful population policy. Lebanon is simply beyond its physical carrying capacity.

July 28, 2010

Hybrid Cars Cannot Save Us; Lower Population Will.

We are often told that one major consequence of industrialization and modernity is the resulting climate change and its deleterious effects. We are further told that if we value planet earth then we should avoid all the activities that result in a major reallocation of carbon in the world. Note that based on the first law of thermodynamics no element is ever destroyed, all what we can do is to release carbon from being locked in fossil fuels to be released as a gaseous compound in the atmosphere. Is such a minute reallocation important for the planet? If we are to recall that this planet has been hit by a meteorite travelling at a tremendous speed, has experienced a cooling process and has a tremendous capacity to adapt and heal itself. In the words of James Lovelock the earth is a “homeostatic super organism” that will constantly change and adapt as to ensure its survival. So does the planet care about our reallocating carbon or any other element for that matter? Physics and common sense tells us that the answer is an unequivocal no. But that does not mean that climate change is not the biggest challenge that humans have ever been faced with. The operative word in the previous sentence is human.

In order to fashion a real and meaningful solution to any problem requires a clear understanding of what is the problem all about. Climate change is not about maintaining a carbon balance for the sake of the earth but it is a purely anthropocentric concern about life for the human species. No one can deny that human civilization has evolved to become an evolutionary factor. A major by product of human activity is climate change which will result in putting into motion a process that many ecologists are calling the sixth extinction. Climate change combined with the growing needs for more roads, buildings, deforestation have radically changed the nature and characteristics of the habitat and thus is leading to more and more extinction.

If we do value these changes, and we should value them, then the solution is not to develop an alternative to the internal combustion engine, although that is desirable, but what is required is a recognition that the biggest threat to human civilization and biodiversity as we know it is the human species itself. The threat is not purely that of numbers, although numbers do count but it is a combination of numbers and levels of affluence. The expression I= PAT as developed by Paul Ehrlich emphasizes clearly the relationship between environmental degradation (I), pure number of humans (P), lifestyles (A) and the level of technology (T). Note that if we are to constantly seek a higher level of affluence, for a larger and larger population then the inevitable outcome is greater and greater ecological degradation.

There are a number of studies that show conclusively that the planet is already beyond its carrying capacity. A popular and easy to understand measure is the estimate of how many global acres are required to provide a particular life style. Such estimates vary from one country to the other and from one household to the other. A simple back of the envelope application of the above shows that if a Western life style is to be adopted by the 7 billion inhabitants then the resources of six planets will be required.

Sustainability is everyone’s concern, large countries, small countries, poor countries and rich countries. Since sustainability does not recognize artificial political boundaries then it must be dealt with on a global level and coordinated policies. Yale University in cooperation with Columbia University have developed a rather sophisticated Sustainability Index based on 76 variables and 21 indicators that shows a weak relationship between GDP and Sustainability Index of each of the 146 countries sin the study. For example, three of the top ten most sustainable countries are not OECD member (Uruguay, Guyana and Argentina). Other rankings that are of interest: Japan is the 30th while the US is the 45th and the UK is the 65th.

Unfortunately, but understandably Lebanon ranks as the 129th most unsustainable country out of the group of 146. The other countries in the region are slightly better but all are very highly unsustainable. An application of the ecological footprint to Lebanon would not make things any better. The average footprint for an individual leading a Western life style is over 22 global acres when the world has on the average only about 6 global acres and Lebanon offers an average of just over ½ a global acre, a deficit of over 21 acres per Lebanese.

July 15, 2010

Peak Oil: World crisis, Arab benefit

Energy is best defined as the “capacity to do work”; there cannot be life without it. That is simply what is meant by saying that life on planet earth will come to an end when the sun becomes so hot in a billion years or so that water on earth would evaporate and life on its surface will become impossible. Meanwhile the energy flows from the sun to the plants that sustain herbivores that in turn are eaten by carnivores and then at the top of this food pyramid the omnivores. This was the case for 100’s of millions of years. A most significant change started with the industrial revolution and it is still going on unabated, the use of machines powered by various forms of terrestrial energy. All machines are in essence dependent on coal, oil or electricity which is produced in most cases from fossil fuels.

The global economy consumes about 500 Quadrillion BTU’s each year and this level of consumption is projected to rise at about 1.4% every year for the next 20 years. Over 86% of all this energy comes from the three major fossil fuels of oil, coal and natural gas. All other forms combined (nuclear, hydro, biomass and all other renewable) account for less than 14% of energy consumption.

Oil supplies the largest proportion of energy in our industrial society and its role is looked upon as being the most crucial for civilization, so much so that a few are already predicting collapse of society as we know it when oil becomes scarce. Peak oil is the term used to describe what some of the best known geologists argue is inevitable. Peak is the point in time when the world would have used half of all the available oil reserves in the world. Whether we have passed the peak as of 2008 or whether we are to pass it in the next couple of years or even decade is not materially important. What is significant is that many, but not all, geologists, energy traders, oil company executives, academicians, environmentalists and common citizens have adopted the new paradigm of peak oil.

Even if we are to leave the issue of climate change aside for the purposes of this post yet it is clear that peak oil is a game changer. The world oil production is about 86-87 million barrels a day and the prestigious and mainstream IEA, International Energy Agency, projects the need for over 110 million barrels each day by 2030. If the world is already at peak then where is the additional oil going to come from? A quick survey of plans by the major oil companies of the world shows clearly that we are digging deeper and in more difficult terrain than we ever did simply because the low hanging fruits have already been picked, so to speak.

There are at least two important implications associated with peak oil. (1) The less the availability of conventional oil then the greater is the incentive to exploit the non conventional oil reserves like Venezuela’s heavy oil, Canada’s tar sands and eventually Colorado’s shale. Each of the above produces oil but at a much greater cost. (2) As conventional oil becomes less abundant; we have already lifted half of all the oil reserves; then again the energy return on investment ; EROI; will decrease and continue decreasing to the point whereby it would require more energy to lift a barrel than the energy embodied in that barrel.

The implications of the above two facts that result from peak oil are very clear. As the world demand for energy increases and the supplies cannot keep pace the resulting imbalances will play havoc with the price of oil. We have already witnessed what a slight shortage could do in 2008 when the price per barrel rose parabolic ally to over $140. Under the scenario of peak oil towards the end of this decade that previous price will be appreciably overshot. There are some who project a price of over $300 per barrel given the tight market conditions predicted by peak oilers.

Arab countries can very easily be producing about 30 million barrels of oil each day by 2020 if Iraq is to achieve its planned goal of 8 million barrels per day. Furthermore it would be easy to project exports of about 22 million barrels each day. If the above scenario is to play out and if the resulting economic crisis does not lead to the use of military force then the Arab oil exporters can expect an annual cash flow of over $1 Trillion. Could peak oil, a major challenge for most of the world be exceptionally beneficial to the Arab countries? And if so are they ready to absorb such flows of funds in order not to clog the international flow of funds.

July 05, 2010

Stay the Course? The Continuation of the Afghanistan War Is Obama's Decision

The ridiculous Republican chair, Michael Steele, has put his foot in his mouth when he said that the Afghanistan War is something the current president initiated. However, it is the sitting president that makes the decision to keep or disengage the US from this conflict. Obama seems to want to pursue a very costly war with no end in sight, and no real chance for turning Afghanistan into a stable country.

Fareed Zakaria raises some very important questions in this video. I agree with the basis of his argument, that this expensive US war involvement should end, sooner than later. 

June 04, 2010

What Ails The Lebanese Political System.

The modern concept of sovereignty of a nation state and all its implications to the inviolability of borders, the sacredness of its territorial integrity and the supremacy of the state are traced to the treaties that ended the thirty year war through the Peace of Westphalia. I mention this only to highlight that this took place almost 400 years ago.

A young nation state can be excused, during its first few formative years, for its inability to exercise its sovereignty immediately at its inception despite the fact that independence for a nation state is usually based on the idea of sovereignty. Realistically no society can be expected to make the transition from dependence to independence overnight. Institutions have to be created, elections held, laws promulgated and citizens informed and educated. But a learning curve of 65 years that fails to make any progress whatsoever is only a sign of total failure in the effort to establish a viable independent sovereign state. Under such circumstances one must wonder whether the experiment that has so far gone awry is worth continuing or whether it would be more advisable to just stop the pretense and dissolve the state.

As you might have already guessed, the above scenario is not fictitious. It is a perfect description of what passes for political leadership in the nation state of Lebanon and for either the inability or the refusal of its citizens to act responsibly by demanding accountability from their so called leaders.
There is no doubt that the present is the sum total of our past decisions and choices. We are what we have become because of our history. But it is wrong to even suggest that the past shapes our future. The only time that the future becomes an identical image of the past is when we keep making the same decisions and choices over and over again. The future doesn’t have to be an extension of the past since its most significant feature is that it embodies immense possibilities. Whether these possibilities are actualized or not is a function of the decisions that we undertake in the present. Our present is the history of the future moment.

So it is not enough to dream about equality, dynamism, individual freedom, economic prosperity, responsible government or a sovereign state. We need to take action that is commensurate with our objective if that goal is to ever stand a chance of being fulfilled. But we can never set our sights high and yet proceed to act as we always have when we were greatly displeased with the outcome. The same input will result in the same output irrespective of our hopes. For our hopes to be fulfilled, we must have the courage to reject business as usual. It will always fail to deliver on our dreams and aspirations because if we cannot change our actions then our goal would be only a wish. Lipstick on a pig.

If we are dissatisfied with the performance of the political regime and with all the politicians in Lebanon, as we should be then we have no right to complain if we do not have the courage to show our outrage at their incompetence, exploitation and feudalism. Note that the 4.5 million Lebanese sheeple find it easier to put up with the inconvenience of having one of the most outdated unreliable and expensive public electric power system in the world by installing private generators, at a great expense, rather than demand a solution to a problem that is simple to solve but that has persisted for over a decade. Why did we reelect the same rascals who created the problem in the first place? We complain about the lack of law and order but when the politicians elect a president by violating a very clear constitutional clause no one questions the decision. How can we expect a person to respect the sacred constitution when the same person accepted to be elected under unconstitutional grounds? The message is simple. Laws, including the constitution were made for the convenience of the Lebanese oligarchy. Their disregard to the constitution and the rights of the citizens is all around us. Its best manifestation is the unworkable new interpretation of a national unity government whereby the executive branch is a tower of Babel, the legislative branch has for all practical purposes been subsumed by the cabinet and the judicial branch has been abrogated. I ask you, have you seen any demonstrations against the above?

Then we have our “Progressive Socialist Party” that is everything but progressive or socialist. It is run by a feudal lord and its leadership is passed along as part of the inheritance. Actually the ever charismatic head of the party regaled us on a recent popular TV show by the analysis that part of the current Lebanese political problem is that PM Hariri represents the Sunni while President Suleiman does not have the support of the Maronites. And that from a progressive socialist. Somebody should remind Mr. Jumblatt of the high regard that Karl Marx had for religion. He went on to say that he; Jumblatt; will not accept an invitation to visit Iran unless King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia gives him his blessings. And that from a progressive socialist in Lebanon. (What is true of the incongruity of the positions of Mr. Jumblatt is endemic of all other parties bare none.

Given the above few examples, and they hardly scratch the surface, it should be clear to any observer that Lebanon is neither independent, nor sovereign. Its inhabitants talk the talk but never walk the walk. If freedom, democracy and sovereignty are important then let us act as if they are by vowing to hold all the current politicians accountable. We need to remind them that they work for us and we should make it sure not to reelect any of them again. The problem of Lebanon is not its politicians. It is its voters. Unless we learn to act upon our convictions then we deserve the government that we get.

June 03, 2010

The Gaza Fiasco: What Next?

There is no need to get bogged down in some peripheral details meant to obfuscate this human tragedy that was committed by the IDF opposite the coast of Gaza. At times the specific details of an act are much less important than the major principle that is to govern human actions. In the words of the philosopher, Peter Singer, it is the oral obligation of every single one in the world to do whatever is possible in order to decrease the hurt and the pain to others when such action will keep us at least at the level of wellbeing of the party being helped. Simply stated, we have an obligation to help the worst off all over the globe as long as we are not to become worse off than the party being helped.. Give until it hurts is his very well thought out solution to need, misery and hunger. The fact that there are many other people in the world whose rights and human dignity is at least as much violated as the people of Gaza and yet the world chooses not to do anything about it is not an excuse to be silent about Gazans also.

Officially Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005. Shortly after that Hamas won the elections of the Palestinian Authority and were asked to form the PA cabinet. Internal disagreents with Fatah led to a quasi civil war after which the forces of Hamas occupied the Gaza strip while the PLO maintained control of the West Bank. Hamas proceeded to allow militants, to target and shell; by rockets; some southern Israeli towns. This behviour angered the Israeli colonizing forces who launched a massive attack on the poorly equipped Hamas forces during 2008. The savage attack on the Gaza strip leveled many quarters of Gaza and killed over a 1000 Palestinian civilians during a debilitating attack in which the IDF is accused of having used new and potentially illegal weapons.

As if the utter devastation of Gaza, the potential use of illegal weapons and the international condemnation of the Goldstone report were not enough the IDF determined to continue the sea blockade to prevent ;not arms and war materiel which would have been understandable; the delivery of food and any humanitarian aid to the whole population held hostage by the IDF. Yes Israel, through its intransigent policies, has imprisoned 1.5 million people, many of whom are elderly, women and children. This abominable act is a clear violation of international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in particular Section 24 which states” Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.” Israel’s’ efforts to subdue a population by starving it is an ironic policy to be adopted by the children of the Holocaust survivors. Unfortunately their message to the rest of the world is clear: Holocaust is an ugly and deplorable act that is never to be forgotten when committed against the Jews but such genocidal measures are acceptable tools if used by the children of the Jews of that most abominable Nazi and Fascist policy.

So what is the lesson from this recent outrageous act of Israeli hubris. An act of piracy in international waters that was so badly planned and misexecuted that it has resulted in the unacceptable loss of 9 innocent lives by those who were trying to alleviate human suffering ? There are two possible responses. One response is to decry the barbaric Israeli action and to use this event as a rationale to sever relations with the Israeli regime. That would be a mistake. Such a reaction would only drive the parties more apart and will result in an increase of hurt on both sides. A better path would be to use this occasion to increase the pressure on the current Israeli government to approach the two state negotiations in good faith. This dark cloud could have a silver lining but only if the international community takes a unified strong plan to resolve once and for all the Palestinian Israeli question that neither the region nor the world can afford to leave unresolved. If we show resolve , courage and creativity then this sorry chapter could become the beginning of a peaceful and comprehensive solution to what thus far has been an intractable problem.

A Curious Life is Worth Living

I have lots of questions but not as many answers--I realize how little I know, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Those who believe they know everything they have no need to learn anything else. Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinions but not to their facts.  We can disagree based on our values and priorities but there's got to be some mutually accepted reality.

Now, that's the problem: How we perceive reality, methods of acquiring knowledge, and standards of evidence. Fortunately, we do have methods of inquiry and logic. Unfortunately, they are often discarded in lieu of confirmation bias, lack of interest in asking questions, and personal identity issues.

Since at least the ancient Greeks, we have the fundamentals of reasoning and the scientific method but even after thousands of years and many civilizations later we don't seem to want to learn. We still cling to primitive taboos, superstition, and willful ignorance. It's very frustrating to see a preference for old inadequate answers to some big questions. Many students aren't interested in learning other than the basic mechanics of a profession that will enable them to become rich... That's how most young college students perceive their efforts and expectations.

Perhaps it's only in the US where a highly advanced country with lots of scientific talent and research has such great numbers of people who are basically anti-science. That's why in several states (yes, where religion is the strongest) they're still debating about the validity of the theory of evolution--one of the strongest scientific theories we've got!

At any rate, for those of us who are awed by the richness of the universe and the thrill of scientific exploration, it's worth watching Brian Cox lecture at Ted. Enjoy--as I know you will.

" Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam"
 Carl Sagan on the occasion of the Voyager taking a picture of Earth in 1994, 4 billion miles away.

May 15, 2010

Arab Israeli Peace: One Last Chance?

If the Arab Jewish conflict in all its phases is to be looked upon as a continuum then its duration is getting very close to becoming the longest war in History. It could eclipse the Hundred Year Wars between the British and France which lasted from 1337 to 1453. Jews had started immigrating to Palestine under the Ottoman Empire rule late in the 19th century but the Zionist movement picked up support as a result of the Balfour Declaration of 1917.

The UN plan of 1947 recommended partition; under the infamous UNSCR 181; but on the day that the British mandate ended May 14, 1948 Israel was declared as an independent state. The Arab league declared war against the new state of Israel but its forces were defeated which resulted in having the Israeli forces in control of most of mandated Palestine and forced the Arab states to sign an Armistice agreement which still represents the internationally recognized borders of Israel. The tentative peace that followed lasted less than seven years. Israel joined the British and the French in their Suez Canal War by attacking and capturing the Sinai and the Gaza strip in October of 1956.

An uneasy peace lasted this time 11 years. On June 5, 1967 the Israeli Air Force launched a preemptive attack on Egypt followed by one on Iraq, Jordan and Syria. When the six day war ended Israel had added to the Sinai, and Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan. This was followed by the 1973 war which started with promise for the Egyptian and Syrian forces but ended up in a cease fire.

Egypt managed to get the Sinai back as a result of the Camp David Accords signed in 1979 which were followed by a Jordanian peace agreement in 1994. Meanwhile Israel attacked Lebanon in 1982 in an effort to force the PLO forces that had been thrown out of Jordan. The PLO withdrew to Tunis and Lebanon signed a ceasefire agreement with Israel in 1983.

In spite of all the misery inflicted by all of these wars there was a genuine chance for peace. Besides Camp David of 1979 the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993 followed by the already mentioned Jordanian peace treaty of 1994 NS OSLO II in 1995. Unfortunately most the promise faded when Israel, in 2003, retook some Palestinian land in contravention of Oslo II. This has been followed by Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, the Lebanon war of 2006 in addition to the Gaza war of 2008.

So what has been achieved in almost a century of conflict besides the constant change of positions? The Israelis start in accepting a partition that is rejected by the Arabs and we move to the point when the Arabs accepted a two state solution which has not been accepted by the Israelis. The situation looks as hopeless as ever, if not even more so. But is it?

I saw today the rough outline of a suggestion by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the National Security advisor for Jimmy Carter, that is simple straight forward and I believe vey promising if the political courage is found to adopt it: President Obama must declare in a press conference that the US will spare no effort to forge an agreement along the following four points

(1) Declare that the right of return for the Palestinians will not apply to the pre 1967 Israel

(2) West Jerusalem will become the capital of Israel and East Jerusalem is to become the capital of Palestine.

(3) The 1967 borders with very minor modifications are to become the internationally recognized borders. Any agreed upon modifications will be based on a one to one ratio.

(4) The new Palestinian state will be demilitarized with NATO forces on the border.

The only question that is worthwhile speculating upon: If President Obama is to make such a commitment then would the rejectionists have any rational excuse to turn such an opportunity for peace down? What do you think?

May 07, 2010

Would the "Greek Tragedy" Go Global?

“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it” This George Santayana saying is as true as it ever was. How else to explain the current international financial debacle de jour? It is rather disturbing that after all the handwringing about the worst financial crisis that the world has encountered in over seventy years and after so many have questioned whether capitalism as a system can survive that we keep on repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Karl Marx’s’ popular quip about how “History repeats itself first as tragedy then as farce” also seems to be tailor made for these rough economic times had the farcical not been so tragic.

Almost everyone who follows the news knows by now that the 2007-2008 economic meltdown, whose cost was estimated to be around $30 trillion, began in the United States before it spread all over the world. There is also a consensus that irresponsible behavior by financial institutions, their regulators as well as individual actors have contributed to the strength and depth of what could have been a second Great Depression. Greed was the most common word that has been used to describe what led to the economic crisis. Greed of institutions for larger and larger profits, greed by managers for bigger bonuses and the greed by individuals to live beyond their means. The financial wizardry of the new “rocket scientists” on Wall Street made all of this possible and then some. They developed new fancy instruments out of common mortgages and then did the same thing for bank loans. Loans and or mortgages were bundled and sliced then diced into so many tranches and sold separately with different levels of risk to anxious buyers all over the world. No one could have enough; neither the originators of these synthetic derivatives nor the buyers. It looked that the “masters of the universe” have created the magic formula that will transform subprime mortgages into AAA securities.

But in order to securitize mortgages and satisfy the insatiable demand for these securities more homes had to be sold and more potential buyers found. As the number of eligible buyers dwindled, as it must, the standards were loosened until there were no standards at all. Home owners bought homes they cannot afford and as prices of real estate went up many home owners decided to participate in the melee by using their homes as ATM machines. The charade went on until the market started to run dry of buyers and home prices cracked. As the prices fell millions of these subprime loan holders defaulted since they can not meet the monthly obligations neither could they sell. Many of those that took out second and third mortgages also found their holdings under water also. What started as a problem in one sector spread like wild fire all throughout the financial system since all players were interdependent and equally greedy to “dance while the music was playing.”

The crisis of two years ago made it apparent that both individuals and institutions had to deleverage their balance sheets which many have done. Regulators are still struggling with a solution to the “Too Big To Fail” but are making some progress in that regard. Unfortunately the lessons of the misbehavior , excessive risk and too much leverage were applied only selectively.

It turns out that the greed of governments was the most serious flaw in this system of international finance. Governments found a way to appease their populations through deficit finance. They offered benefits that they cannot afford and undertook expenditures on projects that are neither viable nor feasible. Actually these governments have mishandled so much of the borrowings that they had to find ways to keep the level of indebtedness off the books. Elected officials in many countries acted as if they have found the secret for wealth creation. Borrow the country into prosperity. For a while the scheme worked, just like subprime and the housing bubble did. But at some point the truth about the ability to repay the billions borrowed and squandered becomes known and the whole cycle of financial collapse gets started again.

That is what is becoming known as the Greek Tragedy or the Olympian Tsunami. Would the Greek Tragedy be confined to Greek soil? Don’t bet on it . The Greek Tragedy is about to become a contagion and there is no reason for it not to go global. After all we were not smart enough to have learned from our recent historical debacles and so we are doomed to repeat them.

April 23, 2010

Earth Day 2010

Forty years ago Earth Day was born and it validated what is perhaps the most promising social movement of the last century and arguably at least the last two centuries. Earth Day did not give rise to environmentalism as an idea but it sure helped spread the awareness and the concern that the nascent field of ecologism had fostered.

A popular movement, especially one whose concern is not limited by geography, ethnicity or religious belief does not just happen. It evolves as a result of deteriorating conditions in the status quo and it attempts to deliver a synthesis, if you will, of the conflicts that had arisen. In this case humans had been exploiting nature, abusing the natural endowment that is so critical for their survival as well as the survival of other species both in the plant and animal kingdoms. Human hubris had dictated to us, at least in the West, that we were created in the image of God, who gave us dominion over all other things on earth. These religious beliefs had become so well established that they contributed towards the creation of science, capitalism, colonialism and ecological degradation on a massive scale. Senator Nelson, the main organizer behind the first Earth Day celebration was merely attempting to provide a forum for individuals to express their concern about the direction in which the world was evolving and thus to empower people to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy that has already been challenged by Rachel Carson, Murray Bookchin, Arne Naess and others.

The world was very receptive to the idea that something radical needs to be adopted in order to meet the existential challenge that was facing all of us. Major environmental thinkers, like the ones already mentioned, to their credit saw the challenge not only in terms of open spaces, green grass, fresh water and clean air. They spoke of the need to create a just social order, a society that respects the individual rights but that is guided by the common good as well as global justice. They aimed for a world that is free of gender, religious, racial, ethnic or sexual exploitation; a non hierarchical structure. They argued and rather convincingly that we can never free nature unless we free ourselves of all the prejudices that dominate our relationships with each other.

Forty years ago a serious social movement became well established and even entrenched to save the world, to save us from ourselves and many of us responded with enthusiasm and energy. But only to be disappointed. The vision has been shattered and the accomplishments have been few.

What happened? What went wrong? The simple answer is that we have allowed the establishment, the one we were determined to fight, the order that we were supposed to challenge to co-opt us. Capitalism which was the nemesis of a healthy environment metamorphed into “green capitalism” the saviour , Incentive Based policies were adopted to restore health to an eco system devastated by the markets very own failures, affluence and affluenza are being promoted as a silver bullet for all what ails us despite the fact that over consumption is one of our seminal afflictions, complexity is still being promoted as a tool to become sustainable when the evidence is exactly the opposite and we persist in our belief that all of this was created for us, for the pleasure of the human species.

So far we have failed to address the issue of human population growth, we have made no progress in cleaning the polluted water that we have, climate change has reached a tipping point , grain stocks are the lowest they have been, conventional and non conventional energy are rapidly facing lower EROI; energy return on investment, the world is full and we are way above carrying capacity but what is most painful is that we have thus far allowed a revolution, a paradigm shift, to slip away from us for the simple fact that our concern is not genuine enough otherwise why would we have agreed to be sold for thirty of silver?

Earth Day

February 22, 2010

It Is Not Too Late If We Act Now

It is not very often that we get credible ecological news that is not full of bad news and projections. Well, I am glad to say that the following is a recent study that actually suggests that humans have not lost the race yet. Yes we are on our way towards catastrophic outcomes but we are not there yet and interestingly enough we can avoid the worst outcome if we are smart enough to change our ways and work meaningfully towards redemption.

The Stockholm Resilience Center, at Stockholm University is self described as a center of Research for Governance of Social-Ecological Systems. The Centre released a few months ago a major study undertaken by 28 world renown scientists in which they have established a new area in planetary management. Their first study describes nine planetary boundaries (listed at the bottom of this entry) that they believe humanity must not cross . The study goes on to say that human activity has thus far resulted in breaching three of these boundaries (the stared ones)but not the other six.

We are currently living in the geologic era known as the Holocene which started around 10,000 years ago. As we all know, it was during the Holocene that agriculture was developed, civilization prospered and industrialization became the norm. But unfortunately we are entering the Anthropocene, a new geological age in which human activities have grown as to form a major threat to the health of the earth.

Will we have the wisdom to adopt the right policies and change our behavior so as to avoid catastrophy? Yes we still can do that but time is quickly running out.

The nine Planetary Boundaries

1. Strategic ozone layer
2. Biodiversity
3. Chemical Dispersion
4. Climate Change ***
5. Ocean Acidification ***
6. Freshwater consumption & the global hydrological cycle
7. Land System Change
8. Nitrogen & Phosphorus inputs to the biosphere & ocean ***
9. Atmospheric aerosol loading

*** Transgressed boundary.

February 14, 2010

Pigouvian Taxes

Sovereign debt , as a potentially crippling fiscal problem world wide, has risen to the forefront over the past few months. Whether it is the US, Europe, Japan or many other developed and developing countries the sovereign debt watch is on.

The major metrics of a pending sovereign debt crisis that have been in vogue for decades used to be applied only to developing countries. Unfortunately this is no longer the case. The Herculian efforts by governments all over the world; the developed in particular; to avoid a repeat of the debilitating depression of the 1930's has forced these countries to increase substantially their fiscal stimulus programs. In a sense the monetary and fiscal policies adopted by the officials of all of these countries have been very successful. A worst case scenario has been avoided.

But as economics has always taught us, There Ain't No Such Thing AS A Free Lunch; TANSTAAFL. Yes we avoided a deep recession and the top officials can pat themselves on the back for this. But maybe not. Is the cure at least as expensive or maybe even more so than the ailment that it saved us from? That is , currently, the $64,000 question or maybe I should say the $64 billion question?:-)

Often, our efforts at prescribing remedies are counter productive because of what is inherent in problem solving. We always seem to target the symptom rather than the disease. As a result we inevitably move from one crisis to the next as a result of the law of unintended consequences.

In our efforts to save the system and to prevent a major economic depression we proceeded to throw money at the problem in order to generate more final demand and thus put more people to work. What we did not stop to consider is the major question of how are we going to pay back all of these funds that we have borrowed? It seems that we did what we always do, shift the burden onto the future generations. The debt will not come due for some decades ,right? Wrong.Well informed individuals know that more debt implies more taxes in the future and so they take corrective by refusing to own the highly risky debt. Once we find out that the debt service is too large and that we cannot keep on rolling the debt unto the future then we will have no choice but to become deadbeats. That is where we are at the moment. The question is which country is going to go under first? Would it be Greece or would it be one of the other PIIGS? How about the UK, or evn Japan or the US? If any of these countries default would they set up a contagion that will devastate all the current international financial sytem as we know it?

Believe it or not there is a potential mechanism that if adopted could go a long way towards addressing the real cause of this issue and not only the surface phenomenon. The solution that I am about to propose is not new, actually,N.G Mankiw wrote about it in 2007.

"The scientists tell us that world temperatures are rising because humans are emitting carbon into the atmosphere. Basic economics tells us that when you tax something, you normally get less of it. So if we want to reduce global emissions of carbon, we need a global carbon tax. ...

The idea of using taxes to fix problems, rather than merely raise government revenue, has a long history. The British economist Arthur Pigou advocated such corrective taxes to deal with pollution in the early 20th century. In his honor, economics textbooks now call them “Pigovian taxes.”...some taxes align private incentives with social costs and move us toward better outcomes."

I would love to see a carbon tax levied not only in the major industrial countries but all over the globe with all the proceeds dedicated to lowering the sovereign debt. Such a tax could be a first step towards internalizing the negative externalities of all the production inthe world economy. If that leads to less and more efficient production then all of us will be winners.

February 06, 2010

Another Attempt of Government Takeover. When Will This Assault on Our Right to be Exploited Stop?

You'd think it would be a no-brainer that instead of the US government giving money and guarantees to the lenders of student loans it could give the money directly to students or to colleges. Of course, that's "government takeover" and we know how free we want to be. Right? That's the argument, like soup de jour, being used by the freedom-loving conservatives today. Don't get me wrong, I often order the soup of the day--which has a different substance and flavor from place to place.

Of course, I don't want the government to take over my civil liberties, but if, as we proudly claim, the government is of, by, and for the people, our government has to provide equal opportunities to the people to reach their own potential. Freedom is connected to action, but without any good choices freedom doesn't mean much. If I'm only free to read, say, do "whatever" I want while being locked up in the basement, then this is not true freedom.

Likewise, I'm not free to pursue higher education if the price of attendance is out of my reach. Being free to choose from lender A or lender B isn't a good option if it means that either choice will bankrupt me by graduation day.... Assuming I could get those burdensome loans to begin with.

Four months ago, it appeared that Obama's proposal to overhaul the student loan business would materialize, but, guess what, the lobbyists haven't given up. Now, how would they succeed in stopping a sensible proposal [yeah, I know, they've done it many times before, stopping good legislation from going forward] in Democratic-controlled Congress? Want a wild guess? Money is buying votes in a climate of failed Democratic leadership to get things done.

Now that SCOTUS has ruled corporations have the same First Amendment rights the sky is the limit. Lots more corporate money will be available to educate the public now. It won't be long when corporations will obtain Second Amendment rights too.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that there's a critical mass of the American public that supports politicians who work against the public interest. Also, the phrase, "government takeover" apparently motivates millions of Americans to defend their freedom of choice to remain toothless!

January 30, 2010

The Hamster That Ate The World lol

A must see British video clip that illustrates the seminal idea upon which Herman Daly built his model of Steady State Economics (SSE). It is also important to remember that Mr. Daly never gave himself the credit for the idea, he always stressed that he borrowed the concept; or rediscovered it if you will; from the work of JS Mill.

January 06, 2010

The Flat Earth Society Is Alive And Doing Well In Saudi Arabia

As the world, at least most of the countries in the world, express concern and even regret over the failure of the Conference at Copenhagen to come to a meaningful conclusion the Saudi Arabian chief negotiator at the talks expressed Saudi Arabia’s glee and satisfaction that the Copenhagen Conference failed to take any positive steps towards meeting the most important challenge that civilization has ever met. Mr. Mohammad Al-Sabban went further as to predict that the world seems to be heading towards a stalemate on the question of anthropomorphic global warming, AGW. Mr. Al-Sabban proceeded on an interview on the BBC to predict that the action on climate change will become similar to that on the Doha round of the WTO. The WTO members have been engaged in negotiations for the past ten years with no resolution in sight.

It is shameful that a country takes pride in the fact that it is not likely for the world community to make any progress on the climate change issue for at least the next ten years and furthermore Saudi Arabia is proud of its record on AGW because it was essentially the work of a China-Sudan-Saudi Arabia cabal that sank the Copenhagen Conference. Saudi Arabia’s obstructionist role in Copenhagen earned it the moniker the” most likely villain in the awkward squad”.

When the world was initially presented with the problem of AGW, many countries, institutions , scientists and individuals were skeptical until the world scientific community has practically united in adopting the view that human activities are the culprit behind climate change. It has been estimated by the scientific community that any change greater than 2 degrees Celsius will have profound global catastrophic implications that range from disease , to storms, higher ocean levels, food shortages and extinction of specie. The fact that human civilization has become a major evolutionary force can be seen in numerous scientific studies.

The Proceeding of the National Academy of Science concluded that “ Since 2000, a growing global economy, an increase in the carbon emissions required to produce each unit of economic activity, and a decreasing efficiency of carbon sinks on land and in oceans have combined to produce the most rapid 7-year increase in atmospheric CO2 since the beginning of continuous atmospheric monitoring in 1959. This is also the most rapid increase since the beginning of the industrial revolution.”

And the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, has also said that :” Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observation of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level. Observational evidence from all continents and most oceans shows that major natural systems are being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases.”

In light of all the scientific evidence from all over the world that climate change is a fact , that its effects will be dramatic, that it is our duty and obligation to try to mitigate it Saudi Arabia is glad that we are not planning any action. But that position is to be expected. Would we expect the drug pusher to support measures designed to decrease drug usage? Of course not. To allow Saudi Arabia and China to have a major say in how to deal with global warming is similar to the proverbial image of putting the fox in charge of the hen house. I am not sure that Saudi Arabia and possibly all other major exporters of fossil fuels should have a say in what is to be done in order to implement strong steps that are bound to create major withdrawal symptoms but that are necessary if the addict is to be given a chance to overcome the addiction. Saudi Arabia and all the other 25 countries in its camp have prevented the global community from making any progress towards rehabilitation and sustainability by insisting that the world is flat. Such a position is demonstrably evil and unethical. But that fact that the global community allowed the "Awkward squad" to carry the day is a powerful statement about our lack of resolve. Shame on all of us.

January 05, 2010

A Sting In The Tail

The following is the link to an article that appeared in the January issue of The Executive. The article was written by Emma Cosgrove about the Lebanese national debt. A good portion of the article is based on some of our previous posts on the subject as they appeared in the RationalRepublic. Ms. Cosgrove did conduct an interview with me about the issues in question and I thought that some of you might be interested in reading this article.